With just a few weeks remaining until the start of Norway’s 2021 football season, the Norwegian Football Federation (NFF) has announced a significant delay.
Unlike much of Europe, football in Norway is a summer sport. The top leagues usually begin around the end of March.
This season, the men's leagues were scheduled to kick off on the weekend of April 3-6. The women's season was set to kick off even earlier. However, the top leagues of both the men’s and women’s game will now not begin until the weekend of May 1-2.
Read more: Norway Women's National Football Team
Travel restrictions cause the delay
The reason? “We have a great understanding that in a demanding situation with increasing infection in parts of the country, football must help to reduce travel activity. We therefore postpone all series games until May,” said NFF's Nils Fisketjønn.
Norway's coronavirus restrictions continue amid rising infection rates. Prime minister Erna Solberg has warned that stricter measures could be introduced unless the trend changes soon.
“The dialogue with the authorities is good, but the signals we have received clearly go in the direction that it is too early to open up,” explained Fisketjønn.
Changes may be needed to 2021 season
Bodø/Glimt deservedly won the 2020 Eliteserien, a season that was severely disrupted by the pandemic. Some games were played behind closed doors, with only a few hundred fans permitted to watch games later in the season.
Because of the compacted schedule, the Norwegian Cup was cancelled for the first time since the second world war and more league games had to be played in midweek. Similar measures could now be needed for the 2021 season.
Fisketjønn said that the completion of the season will now be more demanding because the matches will be completed within a shorter time interval: “In the coming week, the details will be considered in more detail, including how the play-off games and Norwegian Cup will be carried out.”
A frustrated acceptance from clubs
Vålerenga manager Dag-Eilev Fagermo is disappointed, but at the same time understands the decision. His side were set to host Molde on the first day of the season.
“It's a shame for Norwegian football, the cup and not least for those of us who will play in Europe,” he said, adding that scheduling training matches in order to get ready for the season will be challenging.
Fagermo warned that many teams will now have no choice but to travel abroad in order to get match fit, which is not an ideal situation.
Former Vålerenga manager Kjetil Rekdal now manages second tier club Ham-Kam. Speaking to Nettavisen, he was more outspoken about his frustrations. He fears severe consequences for football as an industry if things continue.
“We are the only country in the world that does not play football. Now I think we are approaching an intersection where things can collapse much more than we think,” said Rekdal.